A brief guide to enjoying art online: how to escape the endless scroll
What I’m missing right now are the spontaneous activities that keep life interesting. Popping into a busy city gallery during a shopping trip or strolling through a cool museum on a hot day is a joy for many art lovers. But now that our daily routines mostly involve online wandering, it is hard to recreate. Here are my favourite ways to escape aimless scrolling, and make your home-based day more cultured.
Change your TV habits
Whether you’re addicted to Netflix, or happy with an occasional travel programme, there’s art on TV to suit your habits. The BBC’s Culture in Quarantine gives us insights into the Tate Britain, ceramicist Clare Twomey, and the Sainsbury Centre’s collections. These half-hour gems make a great change from your usual selections, and they’re not too esoteric, so a less artistic family can enjoy them too.
More in depth is the compelling The Price of Everything, a documentary exploring the rarefied world of art dealers, high-value artists, and blockbuster exhibitions. With luck it’ll return to iPlayer, and it’s on Amazon for a small fee.
An established Netflix series is the fascinating Abstract: The Art of Design, brought to my attention by painter and blogger Will Kemp. Two seasons follow designers like Es Devlin, Jonathan Hoefler and Olafur Eliasson, reminding us how art makes its presence known in all our lives. Some episodes are on YouTube for free if you haven’t commit to Netflix yet.
The gallery atmosphere, seeing great art in a huge room surrounded by more great art, can be really powerful. Many artists have played with this concept before, and art is now a regular feature in streets and public spaces too. But Acute Art have taken this further with their AR (augmented reality) application. This lets users exhibit (somewhat saturated) weather events and other ‘collectibles’ in your home, viewed through your phone. I found the app a little clunky, but enjoyed putting a slowly rotating sun above the BBQ in my garden.
There are, admittedly, more refined artistic uses of high-quality graphics, like the British Museum’s The Museum of the World. This virtual museum doesn’t replicate a real gallery, but easily exploring objects through the vastness of time and place makes up for this.
For a more realistic experience, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s 360-degree virtual tour rivals the efforts of the nationals. Although examining particular objects isn’t the easiest, the ability to wander through the Staffordshire Hoard on the sofa is inspiring.
For ease of use, Art UK’s Curations has become one of my favourite artistic diversions: simply browse their collection of art in UK museums and compile your own ‘curation’. Whilst you can’t really play with the display methods or environment, you can add your own interpretative notes, and it’s incredibly quick to get going.
Bring art into your feeds
For a lower-commitment approach to enjoying art online, follow Katy Hessel’s @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram, which accompanies by a podcast discussing the featured work. Following the smaller artists, especially artists of colour, featured here can make a real difference to their careers. It’ll also give you a wider view of contemporary art that the Tate and National Gallery feeds can’t always. Local galleries will really appreciate your follow, too, and you might discover a new destination for a later visit.
These are just a few ways you can keep art in your life when galleries are closed. Share your own discoveries in the comments below!